Saturday, 11 April 2009

A HAPPY AND GLORIOUS EASTER TO ALL!



BELLINI, Giovanni
Resurrection of Christ
1475-79
Oil on panel, 148 x 128 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Image courtesy of the Web Gallery of Art (http://www.wga.hu/index1.html) [Posting data 07-Apr-07; 23-Mar-08; 12-Apr-09]

2009 Easter Message of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=24162

Today, Easter Sunday, with the rest of the Church and Christendom, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Our hearts sing out: “Rising, you restored our life; O Jesus, come again in glory!” This is the central truth of our faith and the subject of every Eucharistic celebration.

On this day two thousand years ago, our Savior, by His resurrection, proved the truth of His love for us. In our lives as Christians, we too must prove our love for the truth in His life and His teachings. We must love each other and risk our all for the truth, because God commands us so; and Christ did no less for us and expected no less from us.

We, who were consigned only to death, have now been reborn in the promise of heavenly life. We, who knew only darkness, are now asked to become children of the light because, as St. Paul reminds us, “the fruit of the light is in all goodness and justice and truth.”

Hallelujah, thanks be to God!

(PND)

Friday, 10 April 2009

Departure Statement of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ASEAN Plus Summits and Dubai

FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009 | COMMENTARY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=24158

The world economy continues to challenge developed and developing nations alike. This and North Korea’s missile launch underline the importance of our upcoming ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits.

Within the context of a turbulent world, it is essential to keep our own region as calm and coordinated as possible. The ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits should be an anchor for member states to keep control of our own backyard.

The Philippine economy remains resilient. ASEAN and related meetings are always an opportunity for us to advance our interests and compare ways to bolster our economy through cooperation with our neighboring countries.

It will be important for East Asian leaders to agree on actions to further strengthen our regional economy and on steps to promote peace and stability. We similarly take a strong stand for continued and united efforts on the region’s economy and security.

After the ASEAN Plus and East Asian Summits, I will travel to Dubai to promote the interests of our expatriate workers there. The economy has been particularly difficult in Dubai, but Philippine workers are still the most sought-after workers in the UAE. As such, I will be going there to champion our workers before the government and those firms that are hiring workers in Dubai.

Central to keeping our economy moving is keeping our workers employed – at home and abroad. The central mission of the Philippine government is the health, security and safety of our people. Good jobs and good wages will continue to help achieve those goals.

Global engagement has been an essential component of what has kept the Philippines from getting pulled under the raging economic waves sweeping most countries. Abroad, our economy is increasingly diversified; we have spread the risk of our reliance on other nations and other markets. At home, today we are a strong, consumer-driven nation that relies less and less on exports and more and more on our own domestic economy.

(PND)

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s eulogy during the necrological services for the eight Malacañang officials and staff

THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2009 | COMMENTARY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=24156

Heroes’ Hall, Malacanang Palace

This is a moment of deep personal sadness for me, an intense feeling of sadness I know is shared by all our Malacañan co-workers, for our friends and colleagues who fell in the line of duty for country and compatriot.

The depth of the grief we share tonight is so much over the passage onward of Malu Frostrom, of Caloy Clet and his aide Demy Reyno, of Perli, of Joe, of Major Sacatani and Captain Alegata, and of Staff Sgt. Perez who boarded that final flight of the Bell 412 last Tuesday afternoon to prepare for our inspection of the Halsema Highway construction.

Malu Frostrom as you all know was the closest co-worker of mine and she was the perfect co-worker. She was one of the most, if not, the most competent of the people I have ever worked with in all my life and one of the most trustworthy and loyal. And as what you have heard from the others, and as many of you know her, while her 24/7 work ethic matched mine, her sunshine personality was the perfect foil for my quick temper, so we got along famously.

Caloy Clet, you have heard from Jun Esperon how he came into our lives, operations officer and even when Jun went on to other stages of his own career, Caloy stayed with us. From Del Bangit’s time, we were already discussing, how we would ripen him to be future PSG Chief, when he was old enough, but as Providence would have it, he had his most shining moments in the equally prestigious and maybe more glamorous job of being my Senior Aide or Senior Military Assistant. Up to now, I remember, in the time of my father, President Diosdado Macapagal, PSG was not yet a group, it was a battalion. And Gen. Dizon, was his Senior Aide, Senior Military Assistant, the job that Caloy held. And he was the most glamorous officer in Malacanang and one of the most in the Armed Forces. And that is my vision of an SMA. But aside from just looking good next to me, I gave him an assignment that the other Senior Aides before him did not do – to alternate with Malu in doing advance work for my provincial engagements, and that is what he was doing. Advance work for our trip to make sure that Hasema Highway with its right-of-way problems and delays in the past that cost re-organization after re-organization will be finished by December.

Earlier tonight, when I was walking among the friends who are here to provide sympathy, I came across Ching Montinola and she told me that Caloy was one of her co-designers of the Malacanang Golf Clubhouse. And she said that he had an excellent taste and indeed that, I guess, goes with the glamor of being an SMA, and that it now convinces me even more how right he was for the job. Caloy was made SMA when he was still full colonel, it’s an 07 position but he was still full colonel. And one time, his wife came to see me with a common friend in Malacanang. And our common friend opened up the subject about why Caloy had not yet been made general and I said, well because we’re waiting for the Class ’79 to get promoted to General and then I would suppose, because he’s got this position, he’s going to be the first of the Class ’80 to be general. I said, no, there’s already a general, Gen. Segovia. So I think I called Gilbert. I said, “Gilbert, I thought that Caloy would be the first general of his class, so there’s already one so it’s about time," and that’s why as Jun said, because he was one of the first three of his class to become general -- and no sooner because at least we are saying our goodbye and giving our respects to a wonderful B/Gen. Caloy Clet.


JoeCap was one of my media supporters from way back, when I was still a senator. His wife Maret and his sister Celia were my colleagues in the Department of Social Welfare and Development and now Maret is a colleague today in the Office of the President. Joe is a loss not only to Maret and to Celia and to their children but I believe also to the Malacañan Press Corps who are grieving very much for him as I can perceive and other members of media, with whom he was when he was in media, and with whom he dealt in this job as Undersecretary of the Press in my Administration because I could observe that he had great camaraderie with them.

Perli, Malu’s tireless and uncomplaining deputy, though she was doing OPSOG work even before Malu began to handle my appointments. I remember her in 2004 making sure that she would make that separate line between doing work for the President and not making it work for the candidate. And I remember, my birthday last Sunday, Perli had a big smile and she kissed me happy birthday and she said, “Thank you, Ma’am, for the trust.” I also Thank you Perli, for your devotion.

The two pilots, Jun Esperon has told you how good they were, competent, veteran fliers. And I must say from my experience, conservative pilots. They would recommend not to take off if the weather was bad, they would recommend to turn back if the weather turned bad. So I know that on that fateful afternoon, they did what they believed was right, and they did their best. If the Lord took them and the others, it is because, as one of my best friends once told me, all of us have to die sooner or later; we are not immortal, it’s not for us to choose, because God knows when it is the best time for each one to go and that is the biggest comfort I can ever have, when loved ones die and the biggest comfort I can pass on to those who are grieving, the members of the family.

Sgt. Perez, the crew that was the silent presence, the quiet, reliable presence who would open and close the helicopter door for me. You know, when the plane was first found, there were only three bodies and we prayed that the five survived and were wandering somewhere in the forest. Then it was five, and we prayed for the three, then it was seven and the first news was it was Sgt. Perez who was not found and, knowing that he was right next to the door, I was hoping that he had survived like Nestor Mata survived the crash of President Magsaysay. But it turns out that he was indeed one of the first seven. And again, each one of us dies sooner or later, and the Lord knows which time is best for each of us.

Demy Reyno, Caloy Clet’s aide, was the youthful mother of a nine-month old baby. Her husband, the new single parent, is also in PSG. So I ask the PSG family to help him raise her baby. When I found out that she had a nine-month old, I remembered the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Now it will take a village to raise her baby – the Malacañan Park village.

Let us long remember them, all of them for their high sense of public duty and their quite odes to joy under a most challenging work environment. They have gone past earth’s mortal bounds but I have faith they are now in their place in Heaven. We send them off with our prayers and remembrance. To all my colleagues, maraming salamat.

===
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=24157

PGMA confers posthumous Presidential Medals of Merit on her late Palace aides; delivers moving eulogy in Malacanang wake
FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009 | PEOPLE, CULTURE & ARTS


Manila (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last night (Holy Thursday, April 9) conferred posthumous Presidential Medals of Merit (PMM) on all eight of her Palace aides – officers and staff alike – who died on Holy Tuesday (April 7) in an unfortunate chopper crash in a zero-visibility zone in the thickly forested Cordillera mountain-range boundary of Benguet and Ifugao provinces.

The President -- with her entire family present during the Palace vigil for the fallen aides -- conferred the Pampanguluhang Medalya ng Merito (Postumo) medals and the accompanying framed citations to the families of the victims after the late-evening mass held in their memory at the Heroes Hall of Malacanan Palace where the white coffins bearing their remains were brought for a joint vigil.

The first medal was given to the family of Staff Sgt. Roe Gem Perez who was cited by the President in her moving eulogy as “the (helicopter Bell 412) crew who was the silent presence, the quiet, reliable presence who would open and close the helicopter door for me.”

The late Palace aides led by three senior officials – Presidential Appointments Secretary and Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Undersecretary Malou Frostrom, Press Undersecretary for Operations and Media Relations Jose “Joecap” Capadocia, and Presidential Senior Military Aide (SMA) Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet – were on their way to an ocular inspection in Ifugao when the helicopter they were riding crashed in the mountainous boundary shared by Benguet and Ifugao.

Next to be given the presidential medal was the beautiful Petty Officer 3 (PO3) Demilyn “Demy” Reyno who left behind a grieving fellow member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), Sgt. Jalicris Reyno of the presidential convoy, and their nine-month-old baby, Ivan.

For Baby Ivan Reyno, the President quoted the saying, “It takes an entire village to raise a child” and called on the entire PSG to help raise him.

“Demy Reyno, Caloy Clet’s aide, was the youthful mother of a nine-month-old baby. Her husband, the new single parent is also in PSG. So I ask the PSG family to help raise her baby. When I found out that she had a nine-month-old, I remembered the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’

“Now it will take a village to raise her baby – the Malacanang Park village,” the President urged.

To the late pilots of the elite Presidential Airlift Wing (PAW) -- chopper pilot Major Rolando Sacatani, commander of the 252 squadron, and his co-pilot, Capt. Alvin Alegata, chief of Wing 3, the President stressed, thus: “The two pilots – (PMS head) Jun Esperon has told you how good they were -- competent, veterans fliers.

“And I must say from my experience, conservative pilots. They would recommend not to take off if the weather was bad; they would recommend to turn back if the weather turned bad.”

President Arroyo also paid tribute to PMS Asst. Director Perlita Bandayanon, the PMS’ perennial coordinator for Mindanao events, whom the President thanked for her tirelessness and devotion. “I remember her in 2004 making sure that she would make that separate line between doing work for the President and not making it work for the candidate.”

All the victims were members of the President’s advance party for provincial events; and compose the Office of the President’s Special Operations Group (OPSOG) made up of representatives from the Presidential Appointments Office, the PMS, the PSG, and the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), particularly the Media Accreditations and Relations Office (OPS-MARO), and, lately, of the Presidential News Desk (OPS-PND).

Also delivering their own moving eulogies during last night’s Heroes Hall wake for the late Palace aides were Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, PMS head Esperon, and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Philippine President Arroyo weeps for dead aides

Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Reports by Vincent Cabreza, Desiree Caluza and EV Espiritu, INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20090409-198664/Arroyo-weeps-for-dead-aides

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led a tearful salute Thursday to her eight aides who died in a helicopter crash in the northern highlands, as Malacañang vowed a “very thorough”inquiry into the incident.

“We mourn the death of our friends and colleagues who died while serving their country. I will miss them so much in my official family,” Arroyo said in a brief statement she read at the Mansion, her official residence in Baguio City.

Finding parallels between the death of her aides, and the Holy Week, the President said: “Like His only Son, whose martyrdom we commemorate this week, what is required from us is our prayerful acceptance of and unshakable faith in the life after death.”

At 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Arroyo saw off the remains of seven of the fatalities at the Loakan Airport.

The caskets bore the remains of Press undersecretary Jose Capadocia, appointments secretary Marilou Frostrom, director Perlita Bandayanon from the Presidential Management Staff, Senior Military Aide to the President, Brigadier General Carlos Clet; Clet’s aide, Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno; pilot Major Rolando Sacatani, and co-pilot Captain Alvin Alegata, the Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau reported.

Arroyo was in tears during a brief religious service for the late Palace staffers, as she condoled with their families, state-run dzRB radio said in a separate report.

Three military helicopters and a private chopper flew in at 9:15 a.m. the remains of Capadocia; Frostom,Clet,Bandayonan, Sakatani, and Alegata, the Inquirer report said.

Towards noon, the remains of Perez was flown in at the Baguio airport, and was eventually shipped home to Manila, it said.

Ms Arroyo was accompanied at the airport by the grieving families of the deceased Palace employees and military officials, including Clet’s widow.

After the service, the remains were flown to the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Ms Arroyo cut short her Lenten vacation to supervise a common wake for the advance team at the Palace’s Hall of Heroes on Thursday evening.

When asked at a news conference, Remonde said the President has yet to discuss with the Cabinet about her scheduled Good Friday flight to Thailand to attend the 14th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit.

“We are still consulting the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Remonde said.

He said the President tried to maintain her composure at the Mansion during the hours running up to the discovery of the partially charred helicopter, although Ms Arroyo soon became "emotional."

Remonde, Trade Secretary Peter Favila; PMS Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr; Internal Affairs Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan; Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III; and Bayani Fernando, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) joined the President at the Loakan Airport.

They later met with the President, after she delivered the short statement.

Secretary Conrado Limcaoco of the Philippine Information Agency and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita were also expected to join Ms Arroyo here before she would travel by land to Manila.

The presidential helicopter crashed amid bad weather Tuesday evening while on a flight to Banaue, Ifugao ahead of a visit by Arroyo, which was cancelled following the tragedy.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will be leading the investigation, Presidential Management Staff Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Esperon said the eight were “practically recognizable,” six of who were found inside the wreckage, one was seen nearby, while Perez’s body was found on a cliff, 60 meters from the helicopter wreckage.

“The weather must have played a lot, just be assured the result of the investigation will be very thorough, [the results will be out] in duetime,” he said.

On Wednesday, PAF Chief Lieutenant General Oscar Rabena ruled out the possibility of a sabotage, saying the presidential helicopters were under heavy guard.

Meanwhile, Press Secretary Remonde pledged the Palace’s “all-out support” for the families of the late staffers.

The presidential helicopter had been grounded at the Mansion’s lawn as a precaution, because of the Tuesday accident.

The advance team’s chopper is of the same make and model as the President’s flagship helicopter.

===
GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/156363/Arroyo-cries-over-aides-death-renews-her-faith-amid-tragedy

You don't often see her cry. The stern-looking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had in fact crushed rebellion against her administration sans shedding a single tear. But on Thursday, the chief executive failed to hide her soft side as she grieved for her Palace aides killed in an air tragedy.

Mrs. Arroyo emerged misty-eyed from a religious service held at the Loakan Airport in Baguio City in honor of the three Palace officials and four millitary personnel who died on a thickly forested mountain in northern Philippines on Holy Tuesday.

It was supposed to be a short, safe flight, just over 30 minutes from Baguio to Banaue, Ifugao to check on the security of a site that would be visited by the President the next day.

But the weather was rough. Amid thick fog and heavy rains, the Bell 412 presidential chopper boarded by Mrs Arroyo's aides fell down the mountains of Ifugao and Benguet provinces.

It was an unsual, dreadful sight for the President. She sent off her people who had always assured her of her safety in metal caskets. Their remains, mostly charred, where loaded into a Hercules C-130 and flown to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City and later brought to the Loyola Memorial Chapels in Makati City for internment procedures.

Despite her despair, Mrs. Arroyo has kept her faith. All will eventually go back to their Creator, thus she believes that there will be life after death.

===
GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/156301/US-condoles-with-kin-of-chopper-crash-victims

The United States has extended its condolences to the families of the eight passengers who were on board the ill-fated presidential chopper that crashed in a mountainous area in northern Philippines last Tuesday.

The US Embassy in Manila hailed the dedication of the passengers who died in the line of duty.

“The U.S. Embassy expresses its sympathy and deep sorrow at the loss of our Philippine friends... They were dedicated public servants and will be greatly missed," its statement released to media on Thursday said.


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

First Philippine special visa goes to Chinese

Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news8_april8_2009

AN EXECUTIVE of a power transmission firm is the first recipient of the special resident visa that Immigration has started issuing to foreigners employing 10 or more Filipinos here, an official said yesterday.

Chinese businessman Ruan Qiantu, a director and chief technical officer of National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, was issued the visa on Friday, Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan said in a statement.

National Grid is partly owned by the Hong Kong-based State Grid Hong Kong, which employs more than 5,000 Filipinos. It is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and operates a nationwide power transmission grid here.

“This is the precise reason why this visa was conceptualized,” Libanan said.

“Its purpose is to reciprocate and extend the privilege of indefinite stay to foreign businessmen who contribute to the generation of much needed jobs for our countrymen.”

Philippine food giant San Miguel Snaps Up Deals in Slump

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123923544731203315.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Lifted by buoyant consumer spending and the belief that some economies are bottoming out, 119-year-old Philippine brewer San Miguel Corp. is using the global downturn to grab stakes in regional energy and natural resources markets.

The Philippines' largest food-and-beverage company with annual sales of about $3.52 billion sees the current downturn as an opportunity similar to the one presented by the Asian financial crisis of a decade ago. Then, businessmen Ramon Ang and Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. took over the Manila company as its business struggled. They streamlined its operations and expanded distribution networks, almost doubling its net profit within a year.

Today, the two men are using San Miguel's strong balance sheet to acquire major stakes in the country's biggest oil refiner and electricity distributor, and bid on other businesses such as communications companies that are likely to thrive when the global economy recovers.

"San Miguel is cash-rich and ambitious," said Jojo Gonzales, managing director of Manila brokerage Philippine Equity Partners Inc.

On Wednesday, San Miguel's brewing unit, San Miguel Brewery Inc., reported first-quarter net profit rose 8% to $54 million, underscoring its cost controls.

The Philippine company isn't alone in its ambitions. Chinese concerns are bidding for stakes in iron-ore and aluminum mining firms. They spent more money buying stakes in overseas companies in January than U.S., British and Japanese companies combined, according to Thomson Reuters.

In Malaysia, utilities conglomerate YTL Corp. used a cash-spinning water supply business in Britain to help fund the purchase of a Singapore-based power generator. Budget airline AirAsia Bhd. is aggressively spending on new jets and has started a new cut-rate long-haul service called AirAsia X.

All this activity doesn't quite add up to the new engine of growth that the World Bank said will be required to pull the world economy out of its nose dive. But it points to a growing conviction among Asian companies that now is the time to take advantage of weakened targets.

Some analysts and credit-ratings firms have reservations about San Miguel's decision to expand out of the Philippines' beer market, where it has a 95% market share. "In our opinion, San Miguel is expanding into sectors that are exposed to a more uncertain operating and regulatory domestic environment," and might not be as profitable as the company predicts, said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Allan Redimerio.

Mr. Ang said he is unperturbed. "This isn't an accidental phenomenon. We've been planning this for a long time," he said.

While the well-connected Mr. Cojuangco sets the long-term direction of San Miguel, Mr. Ang -- 20 years younger than the man he calls "The Boss" -- often calls the plays and cuts the deals.

Mr. Ang, San Miguel's president and chief operating officer, and Mr. Cojuangco, the company's chairman and CEO, hatched their plan to remake San Miguel when Mr. Cojuangco regained control of the company in 1998. At the time, the company was losing money in its overseas operations. Mr. Ang estimates previous management lost around $1 billion expanding into China, Vietnam and elsewhere.

"We couldn't compete with local brewers, especially the Chinese," Mr. Ang said. "We saw there was a problem and we asked ourselves what we could do."

The answer was to move into businesses where they could take the cost-cutting techniques they honed in beer and apply them to industrial businesses that promised higher returns. The problem was finding a way to raise the cash to effect the change.

Enter the subprime crisis. Minutes from San Miguel board meetings show that as early as 2006 Mr. Ang was worrying about the impact of toxic mortgages on the global economy. "The rest of the board said, 'Come on, Ramon, don't be crazy,'" Mr. Ang recalls, but his colleagues gave him permission to sell many of San Miguel's prized assets.

Throughout 2007, Mr. Ang sold the company's interests in several overseas business, including Australian dairy giant National Foods Ltd. That deal, struck at the peak of the market and with the Australian dollar nearly at parity with the U.S. dollar, brought San Miguel $2.6 billion in cash. Japan's Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd., which bought all of National Foods, recently agreed to buy 43% of San Miguel's brewing business for $1.24 billion.

When the global crunch set in for real last year, Mr. Ang started buying. In October, San Miguel bought a 27% stake in one of the country's most important companies, electricity distributor Manila Electric Co., for about $615 million.

San Miguel joined forces with Qatar Telecom QSC in December to invest as much as $1 billion to set up a new Philippine cellular phone network. It spent $10 million in December for an option to acquire a 50.1% stake in Petron Corp., the Philippines' biggest oil refiner and distributor. The option gives San Miguel the right to buy the stake for 32.2 billion pesos, or $667 million, by the end of 2010.

"No guts, no glory -- that's what we say," said the animated 53-year-old Mr. Ang, who paces and waves his arms frequently in an interview at San Miguel's headquarters. "We're building a completely new company, and it's starting right now."

Messrs. Ang and Cojuangco have worked closely together for years. They met through a shared passion for fast cars. Mr. Ang looked after his boss's business interests when Mr. Cojuangco fled the Philippines in 1986 with the ouster of his close ally, former dictator President Ferdinand Marcos.

Mr. Cojuangco later returned to the Philippines, running unsuccessfully for president in 1992. Six years later, with Mr. Ang, he regained management control of San Miguel, which he had run briefly during the Marcos years. Since then, Mr. Cojuangco has built political alliances that some analysts say have given him the confidence to steer San Miguel into sensitive industries.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@awsj.com

Philippines reaps benefits from breakdown in US

Outside the Box / John Mangun
THURSDAY, 09 APRIL 2009 00:43
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/8590-rp-reaps-benefits-from-breakdown-in-us.html

Filling up this space with analysis on how the Philippine stock market is going to skyrocket over the next months would be easier. Commenting on how none of the gloom-and-doom forecasts are coming true would be more enjoyable.

However, the events that are unfolding in the United States, in particular, are going to have such a profound impact on the future of the Philippines, that it is necessary to look into possibilities, probabilities that were unthinkable just a few months ago.

Over the last three months, the US government has done things that were unimaginable even one year ago. The government has nationalized a large portion of the banking sector, taken over the US automobile-manufacturing industry and increased government spending to levels unheard of for a “First World” nation. These policies are completely interconnected and the result will dramatically affect the world for decades to come.

State ownership of major portions of the economy is the great failure of government policy of the 20th century. From the former Soviet Union to China and England, Sweden, Italy and every example of crony capitalism, there is not a single success story. Go no farther than state ownership of National Power Corp. in the Philippines for the classic study. In every case, where the government took over businesses created by and thriving in the private ownership, failure resulted. Before you raise the example of state ownership and control of business in Singapore as a positive example, remember that, first, Lee Kuan Yew’s government built most of those business like Sembawang Shipyard, Temasek Holdings, Singapore Telecoms and Singapore Airlines nearly from the beginning, and second, Lee ran those businesses as well as the government, as a business and not as a government-style enterprise.

A crucial reason the government cannot successfully manage companies is that the government has no financial restraints; it can print all the money it needs to run the businesses. Imagine having an unlimited amount of capital for your own business, never having to worry about making a profit in order to pay expenses or to expand operations. Having unlimited and, most important, unearned capital available goes against the essential purpose of a business; that is, to make a profit.

As a government nationalizes businesses, it must raise money to fuel those companies, either through borrowing or taxation, since state-owned enterprises rarely make any profit. The United States has increased spending as a percentage of its gross domestic product to a level that would shame any Third World country and would have the World Bank screaming about fiscal irresponsibility.

Two things will happen to support this massive government spending and the funding of the financial bottomless pits of government corporations: uncontrolled printing of money and high, crippling taxes.

From the Weimar Germany in the 1930s to Zimbabwe of 2008, currency devaluation and screaming inflation are inevitable when the government printing presses roll. Witness the Philippine economy and peso during martial law and crony capitalism.

Higher taxes always start with the “tax only the rich” song, as with Obama. Yet, it is the “rich,” that always created the successful businesses; that is how they became rich. Both Sweden and the UK followed the same formula as Obama is doing. Sweden raised taxes to the point that anyone making over $250,000 per year paid 102-percent tax on the excess amount. They were penalized for making money. And what did these people do? They left their countries; ironically, most for the United States, where wealth-building was still rewarded.

With a substantially devalued currency and with a tax rate that pushes the individuals who drive private-sector economic growth out of the system, what happens?

Read this from an American commentator, Bill Whittle: “The top 10 percent [of income earners] pays 60 percent of the total income tax, and which allows the bottom half to pay nothing. So let me now send a personal message to the rich in America. Leave. Just go away. Retire to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or wherever, but do it now, please. Close your companies, fire your employees, shutter your factories and offices, sell your property and take all of that somewhere else…better yet: somewhere scenic but poverty-stricken. Somewhere that could use some wealth creation. Somewhere that people simply are grateful to have a job in the first place. Somewhere where you will be appreciated. You are not welcome in America any more. Take your wealth and prosperity and inventiveness and hard work and vision and insight and bold risk-taking and joy in seeing growth and wealth creation and just go away.” And come to the Philippines.

Is this dreaming and wild speculation? No, it will happen. In fact, it is happening. The billions of dollars US companies are spending abroad on outsourcing is a result of the US corporate-tax rates being the second-highest in the world. The Philippines, accused of being a “tax haven,” is the first shot of many more to come in the war to keep the West’s wealthy (and their money) at home.

The Philippines will definitely reap the rewards of this new and doomed attempt at economic statism in the United States. The Philippines has a Western-friendly culture combined with an Asian setting. The overwhelming abundance of natural resources and its wealth will help keep the peso strong and stable, and inflation well-controlled. The Philippines, like many similar countries, is continuously moving toward a more business/wealth creating-friendly environment.

These factors and others will fuel a migration of capital and business from the West to the Philippines. This relocation of wealth will be long, deep and sustained.



PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.com.

Report: Bodies of all fatalities in chopper crash recovered

GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/156256/Report-Bodies-of-all-fatalities-in-chopper-crash-recovered

MANILA, Philippines - The bodies of all eight fatalities in the crash of a presidential helicopter in the boundary of Benguet and Ifugao have been recovered, a radio report said early Thursday.

Radio dzRH reported Thursday morning that preparations have started preparations to bring the bodies of the eight fatalities to Metro Manila before the end of the day.

It said local officials were to bring the bodies to Loakan Airport in Baguio City before bringing them to Metro Manila, to the families of the victims.

Military information chief Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said the remains of the victims are expected to arrive at the Villamor Air Base at 10 a.m. Thursday. Arrival honors were to be given.

Torres said an overnight wake will be held at the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing hangar before the remains will be brought to their respective destinations.

Local officials expressed their condolences to the families of the fatalities, with local media saddened over the death of Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia.

Among the fatalities were three Palace officials, three military personnel, and two pilots, all of the Bell 412 presidential aircraft that crashed in Ifugao.

The chopper that took off from Loakan Airport late Tuesday afternoon was supposed to go to Banaue town in Ifugao province as advance party for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's inspection.

Aside from Capadocia, aboard the chopper were presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrom, Presidential Management Staff assistant director Perlita Bandayanon, Navy Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Roe Gem Perez.

The pilots were identified as Major Rolando Sacatani and Captain Alvin Alegata.

Meanwhile, relatives of Frostrom have offered a Mass for her in the late official's native Cebu, a radio report said.

But radio dzRH reported that Frostrom's relatives did not immediately inform her mother of the fate that befell her. Frostrom's mother reportedly has a heart ailment. -

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Search teams in helicopter crash find two more bodies

GMANews.TV (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/156160/Chopper-wreckage-5-bodies-found-on-Ifugao-mountain) reported that police have found two more bodies in the crash site, according to Senior Superintendent Danny Pelisco, chief of the Benguet Police District. He said one was unidentifiable while the other one was garbed in blue uniform. This brings the body count to five. Three are still missing.

Meanwhile, ABS-CBNNews has modified its previous report that all passengers were killed (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/04/08/09/wreckage-missing-chopper-found-all-passengers-killed). It now reads: 'All eight passengers of the ill-fated presidential Bell 412 chopper that crashed on Tuesday are feared dead. But since only 3 bodies have been found so far, officials and the passengers' relatives are still hopeful for survivors.'

Presidential statement on helicopter crash

http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=24146

I am saddened by the discovery of three bodies at the crash site of the Bell 412.

We’re still confirming the identities even as we continue to search for the other five passengers.

I thank our troops, policemen, local officials, civil volunteers and the rest of the search party for their tireless efforts.

I ask our countrymen to join me in extending my condolences to the families of the three victims and in praying that the five others are still alive and that they will be rescued soon.

Thank you.

===

Though there is no official report on the five other passengers, ABS-CBN News, at 3:57 pm, has reported that all the passengers have been killed. (See http://abs-cbnnews.com/nation/04/08/09/wreckage-missing-chopper-found-all-passengers-killed)

Pilots refuse to fly over Baguio after 2pm

Clouds, unpredictable weather pose risk
By Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
ith a report from Elmer Kristian Dauigoy
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20090408-198590/Pilots-refuse-to-fly-over-Baguio-after-2pm

BAGUIO CITY -- There's a reason pilots refuse lifting off the runway of Baguio's Loakan Airport once the clock strikes 2 p.m.

Afternoon clouds almost always envelope the summer capital daily, according to 30-year-old data compiled by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

Commercial airlines schedule Baguio trips in the mornings because of the unpredictable weather, although the practice is usually at the pilot's discretion, officials of the Air Transportation Office and the Department of Transportation and Communication said.

But there is no policy controlling the schedule of flights to Baguio because no expert to date can say whether the weather alone automatically makes every flight through the mountain region risky, said weather specialist Salvador Olinares.

"Statistics indicate that any day in the last 30 years in Baguio was cloudy. Anytime of the day, it's cloudy," he said.

Baguio is 1,500 meters above sea level and because of the relatively cool climate (running from an average of 12 degrees Celsius in December to as high as 24 degrees Celsius during summer), the city generates mist and clouds and receives the highest recorded rainfall than any area in the country, according to Pagasa records.

"You cannot beat nature. All we can do is to be prepared," Olinares said.

A cold front has been affecting Northern Luzon since April 6, and this has brought intermittent rains in Baguio and the rest of the Cordillera, including Ifugao, when the presidential helicopter carrying Malacañang officials ventured to scenic Banaue town on Tuesday, Olinares said.

The officials were on the way to Banaue to prepare for President Macapagal-Arroyo's visit there on Wednesday. Ms Arroyo is in Baguio City for her annual Lenten break.

The Bell 412 helicopter was declared missing on Tuesday night and the last message sent by one of its passengers, Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia Jr., indicated that they were flying blind.

Olinares said a cold front could account for the deceptive calm of Baguio's weather on Tuesday afternoon, and the strong rains along Halsema Highway in interior Cordillera which leads to Banaue, Olinares said.

A cold front is the atmospheric condition where cold air replaces warm air. The transition increases the formation of clouds, which are masses of condensed cool air.

Based on the weather patterns of Tuesday, cumulus clouds had formed when the helicopter left the Loakan Airport at 4:20 p.m.

"Distant fog had already crept in and based on what the Baguio weather station had observed, there was no more visibility for 10 kilometers" at the runup to 5 p.m. when the weather condition was officially recorded, Olinares said.

Pilots have always been aware of the risks of Baguio flights.

Air Force Lt. Isagani Quiming, pilot of one of the rescue helicopters searching for the Malacañang officials' chopper, said a typical Huey helicopter has a cruising speed of 80 to 90 miles per hour.

Flying below that speed means the helicopter is vulnerable to the strong air currents generated from mountain walls.

"Flying in low air speed makes it more dangerous, kasi madaling tangayin ng gustiness ng hangin (because the chopper can be pulled by the gustiness of the wind)," Quiming said as he piloted a rescue chopper over Kabayan, Benguet on Wednesday.

"Mahirap din kasi kung puro bundok. Mataas ang elevation, malakas ang hangin at makapal ang clouds (It's also difficult to fly helicopters here because the mountains are high. The higher the elevation, the stronger the wind speed and the thicker the clouds)," he said.

The war diary of the late Capt. Demetriou Luis documented how Japanese pilots refused to fly to Baguio after 10 a.m. during World War II because of the terrain and erratic weather, said lawyer Concepcion Luis, Luis' daughter.

In 2005, a government plane crashed at the Atok Trail, near the Baguio City Economic Zone, as it approached the Loakan Airport, according to the Office of Civil Defense here.

W

Presidential chopper wreckage found


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/156160/Chopper-wreckage-3-bodies-found-in-Ifugao-mountain

MANILA, Philippines - Police operatives on Wednesday found the totally burned wreckage of the presidential chopper that went missing Tuesday afternoon, a police official said.

Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian, director of the Cagayan Valley regional police, said three charred bodies were also found with the wreckage.

In a phone patch interview with reporters, Presidential Management Staff head Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said they could not still identify the bodies.

"As of now we could not identify the three. Wala pa... hindi pa namin na-identify kung babae o lalaki [We have also not identified whether they were male or female]," he said.

Damian said the wreckage was found in a heavily forested area at Sitio Mangingihe in Barangay Eheb in Tinoc, Ifugao.

"It was found totally burned," Damian said of the chopper debris.

Bodies

A local policeman who was among those who located the missing aircraft said two of the bodies were found in pieces.

“May nakita kami na buo na isa po. Piloto yata yun [We saw a body that was still whole. We think it was the pilot’s]," said SPO2 Samuel Guyon of Tinoc Police in an interview on dzBB radio.

Asked how they were able to determine that one of the bodies belongs to the pilot, Guyon said: “Yung uniporme ho [Through his uniform]."

The missing Bell 412 aircraft (tail number 1946) was carrying Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, presidential military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, Undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrom, Presidential Management Staff assistant director Perlita Bandayanon, Navy Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Roe Gem Perez.

The team was on their way to Banaue in Ifugao to conduct an ocular inspection there for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Wednesday visit.

The President is scheduled to inspect the Banaue portion of the 45-kilometer long Bontoc-Banaue section of the highway at Km. 350 in Sitio Awan Igid in Barangay Viewpoint.

Armed Forces public information chief Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres earlier identified the pilots as Major Rolando Sacatani and Captain Alvin Alegata.

The chopper took off from Loakan Airport in Baguio City at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday and was supposed to arrive in Ifugao about an hour later.

Hope

Esperon said that they are still hoping that the other five passengers are still alive and said that efforts to locate them would continue.

“While five others have yet to be found. We hope that they were able to escape after the crash and we hope they could still be alive," he said, adding that local officials and even miners have joined in the search and rescue operations.

In a separate radio report, Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) for Northern Luzon chief Director Leopoldo Bataoil was quoted as saying that two more choppers would be sent to the area of the wreckage on hopes that more bodies - or even survivors - would be found.

Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lt. Gen. Isagani Cachuela said they have ruled out air operations for the meantime due to bad weather conditions in the area.

He said troops are coordinating with the local police to secure the area.

In an interview with radio dzBB, deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez admitted the spirits of Palace employees have been low since the chopper was reported missing Tuesday afternoon.

“Magmula kahapon mababa ang spirit ng taga-Malacañang, dahil itong nasangkot dito malapit sa amin, kasamahan sa opisina. Araw-araw natin nakikita, they can be considered the life of the party," he said.

[Since Tuesday the people at Malacañang have been feeling down because those missing are close to us. They can be considered the life of the party. We see them everyday.]

He also said that President Arroyo has instructed all of search and rescue teams to ensure "that all the reports coming in are verified and validated." - Jam Sisante, Sophia Dedace, Aie Balagtas See, Amita Legaspi and Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV

Japanese envoy praises "future-oriented" fairness of Filipinos

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2009 | FOREIGN RELATIONS
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=24142

MANILA (PNA) — Reiterating that post-World War II Japan is a nation reborn, Japanese ambassador to Manila Makoto Katsura has praised Filipinos for their “future-oriented attitude” toward Philippines-Japan relations.

Katsura said he takes this view to mean the “deepening (of) friendly relations” between the two countries, protagonists in the Pacific War of the 1940s, when the Philippines allied with the United States against Japanese imperialism.

“In this context, I am deeply moved by the Filipino people’s noble spirit of reconciliation and sense of fairness,” Katsura said.

The Japanese envoy made these remarks at Tuesday's commemoration rites for “Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Heroism),” formerly known as the "Fall of Bataan Day," on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan province, about two hours from Manila.

Katsura also expressed his “heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse” over the destruction and deaths Japan’s Imperial Army inflicted on the Philippines during World War II, including the tragic Bataan Death March.

“As I stand before this venerable shrine on Mount Samat, let me reiterate my greatest tribute to all those who fought and fell, and my heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the damages caused by the Japanese military in the Philippines,” Katsura said as President Gloria Macapacal-Arroyo, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Anne Kenney, and other dignitaries and war veterans listened.

A speech by the Japanese ambassador, with the U.S. ambassador in attendance, has become an intrinsic part of the annual rites.

Thousands of allied soldiers, mostly Filipinos, were forced to join the so-called “Death March” along the highway stretch of Bataan and Pampanga as they were being moved to Capas in neighboring Tarlac province as prisoners of the Japanese Imperial Army, victors at the time.

Eventually, Japan surrendered in August 1945, deeply humiliated and reduced to destitution but aided in its national reconstruction by the U.S.

Japan now has what is known as a Peace Constitution, drafted under the leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Katsura reassured that since then, Japan “was reborn as a peace-loving nation” and “has firmly resolved to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, without allowing the terrible lessons of the war to erode.”

“Indeed, the Filipino people have been appreciating Japan as we are today -- peace-loving nation that shares the fundamental values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.”

He said Japan is fully committed to working bilaterally or with other countries in helping with Philippine development programs, stressing that he is confident that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) “will bring the already strong ties between our two nations to a higher level.”

JPEPA has been in force since December 2008. A fresh batch of Filipino nurses is leaving for Japan soon as a result of JPEPA.

Japan is the largest donor of official assistance to the Philippines as well as its largest trade partner. “On our part, we have been trying our best to assist the Philippines' nation-building efforts as the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA)," Katsura said.

Japan's ODA has expanded to include security issues, such as in Mindanao. Tokyo has dispatched two Japanese development experts to inspect potential development projects in Mindanao despite intermittent clashes between government troops and Muslim rebels.

Japan has also donated 7,500 tons of rice through the World Food Program to thousands of civilians in Mindanao displaced by the clashes in the area.

Katsura said these demonstrate Japan’s active contribution to the peace process on Mindanao. He added Japan puts emphasis on enabling displaced residents "to get back on their feet." (PNA)
scs/GJB

Philippine President inaugurates maritime academy

PGMA inaugurates new P1-billion M.A.A.P. facility
TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2009 | EDUCATION
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=24125

MARIVELES, Bataan (PND)– President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today (Tuesday, April 7) flew to the sprawling campus here of the 11-year-old Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) to inaugurate its new P1-billion facility overlooking Corregidor.

Earlier in the day, the President led the 67th “Araw ng Kagitingan” commemoration ceremonies at Mt. Samat In Pilar, Bataan.

Upon arrival at the 82-hectare MAAP campus, the President was ushered to the front garden of the new building where she planted a tree to commemorate the inauguration of the spanking new complex.

Accompanied by the First Gentleman, the President then led the ribbon-cutting and marker-unveiling ceremonies before she was shown the newly-acquired $5-million state-of-the-art simulator which is the first of its kind in the Far East.

Retired Navy chief Vice Adm. Eduardo Ma. R. Santos, MAAP president, said it was First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo who laid the cornerstone for the new complex in January last year.

The President was met by Santos and Capt. Gregorio S. Oca, chairman of the MAAP, and by AJSU President Capt. Yoji Fujisawa and IMMAJ chair Tako Manji, among other MAAP leaders and partners.

The new P1-billion MAAP complex is the product of the partnership among MAAP, the All Japan Seamen´s Union (AJSU), the International Marine Management Association of Japan (IMMAJ), and the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen´s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP).

Also in full force in the ribbon-cutting and marker-unveiling ceremonies were several ship owners of Japan who prefer the general all-around expertise of Filipino seamen and ship officers for their ships, according to the MAAP.

Also in the ceremonies were Presidential Assistant for Education Usec. Mona Valisno and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Emmanuel Angeles, among other top government officials.

The MAAP said the P1-billion campus project consists of a fully equipped, self-sustained Academic building, a mess hall and a dormitory that can accommodate 1,000 midshipmen or cadets.

“This is designed to ensure a steady supply of competent, loyal and disciplined Marine Officers and Maritime Engineers to exclusively man the expanding Japanese Merchant Marine fleet,” according to MAAP.

The academy added that the academic building in the new complex “houses some 50 air-con classrooms (25 cadets per classroom), audio-visual room, library and study room, language laboratory, machine shop with 25 lathe machines, drill presses and grinders, welding ship with UNITOR electric, gas and plasma welding equipment.”

On the other hand, the MAAP’s new pride, the $5-million simulation center, “contains the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art, training equipment and laboratories.”

“The simulator creates a realistic, virtual reality (VR) and interactive environment in order to provide training and skills development without having to use real equipment or go to the actual site.

“The Center has Full Mission Navigational Bridge Simulator with 360º field of vision on a motion platform which is linked to the full mission engine simulator, a live Integrated Bridge System similar to what is actually installed aboard new ships, a Compact Shiphandling Simulator with Japanese ship models and port, three Type “B” Bridge Simulators with 120º field of vision and 25 entry-level desktop simulators.”

The MAAP added that the Navigation Simulator has life-like, interactive equipment found on a Ship´s Bridge or Navigation Station; and uses various ship models, including tankers, container ships, passenger liners and navy ships.

The MAAP Full Mission Bridge Simulator was made by Kongsberg Maritime Systems of Norway, one of the leading simulator manufacturers in the world.

Philippine Inflation Drops to 6.4 Percent in March

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=2048
04.07.2009

Headline inflation dropped to 6.4 percent year-on-year in March from 7.3 percent in February. This brings the year-to-date average to 6.9 percent, lower than the 7.1 percent average a month earlier. Month-on-month headline inflation also declined in March to 0.1 percent from 0.5 percent in February. Likewise, core inflation, which excludes specific food and energy items to measure generalized price pressures, was lower at 5.6 percent year-on-year in March from 6.4 percent in February. The inflation outturn for March was within the 5.9-6.8 percent forecast of the BSP.

All major commodity groups registered lower inflation rates in March. Lower electricity rates in March led to negative year-on-year inflation for light. In addition, the rollbacks in the prices of diesel and gasoline products in March as well as the recent reduction in jeepney fares led to negative year-on-year inflation for transportation and communication services. Meanwhile, food inflation was lower due mainly to the lower year-on-year inflation for rice, meat, and miscellaneous food.

Officer-In-Charge Armando L. Suratos noted that the slowdown of inflation in March, together with the within-target inflation outlook for the policy horizon, are some of the important factors that that the BSP will consider as it assesses its monetary policy actions in the near term.

View Table

Philippine End-March 2009 GIR Stands at US$38.87 Billion

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=2047
04.07.2009

Preliminary data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) stood at US$38.87 billion as of end-March 2009, broadly steady compared to the end-February 2009 level of US$38.92 billion, Officer-In-Charge Armando L. Suratos reported.

The latest end-March GIR level reflected the net receipts by the BSP of the National Government’s (NG) deposit of loan proceeds, the BSP’s net foreign exchange operations, and income from its investments abroad. These inflows were counterbalanced by net outflows arising from the repayment of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG, and valuation losses in the BSP’s gold holdings on account of the lower price of gold in the international market in March 2009.

The current GIR level could cover 6.2 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It was also equivalent to 5.6 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 2.9 times based on residual maturity. 1/

The level of net international reserves (NIR), which includes revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, declined to US$37.3 billion as of end-March 2009 from the previous month’s level of US$37.9 billion due mainly to the BSP’s higher short-term liabilities. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.

------------

1/ Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 month

View Table

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Philippine project: Metro Pac close to acquiring Skyway firm

Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://business.inquirer.net/money/topstories/view/20090406-198232/Metro-Pac-close-to-acquiring-Skyway-firm

MANILA, Philippines--The local infrastructure unit of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. may soon acquire a majority stake in the company that operates the Skyway elevated toll road in southern Metro Manila.

According to Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez, the group is in discussion with Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (CMMTC) for possible equity infusion by the Manuel Pangilinan-led group into the latter.

He said discussions with the Indonesian-led firm shifted to high gear with the start of construction of the so-called “Skyway 2” project, which involved the extension of an existing 10-kilometer stretch from Makati City to Bicutan by another seven kilometers to Alabang.

Speaking to reporters, Fernandez said an estimated $192 million would be needed for the second phase of the Skyway project—an amount the Metro Pacific group would help fund should it successfully gain an additional stake in CMMTC.

Currently, Metro Pacific’s stake in CMMTC amounts to 10 percent.

Separately, Pangilinan, who chairs Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), parent firm of MPTC, said talks with CMMTC were at an advanced stage and that a deal may be forthcoming.

“It is almost done,” he told reporters, adding that his firm was interested in gaining a majority stake in the Skyway operator.

He said Metro Pacific would help the firm raise funds for the expansion of the Skyway, the development of which was cut short by the effects of the 1997 East Asian financial crisis and the downfall of Indonesian strongman Suharto, whose daughter owned the firm that built the roadway.

Apart from constructing the elevated roadway, Pangilinan said funds would also be devoted to rehabilitating the toll plazas of the Skyway, to give them a uniform design with those of the North Luzon Expressway, which the group also owns and operates.

Funds will also be allocated for the continuing rehabilitation of the existing at-grade section of the Skyway from Magallanes to Alabang.

The entry of the Metro Pacific group into the company will dilute the stake of its Indonesian owners to a minority stake, company officials said.

Officials also said this project would generate an estimated 30,000 jobs over its two-year life span.

For its part, the government is expected to contribute about P200 million, which will come in the form of right-of-way acquisitions in and around the project site.

Skyway 2 is the fourth component of Metro Pacific’s P38.1–billion road construction package designed to decongest major roadways in and around Metro Manila.

Other projects in the pipeline consist of Segment 8.1 from Mindanao Ave. to Valenzuela City; Segments 9 and 10, covering a distance of 8 kilometers from NLEx to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela and Port Area in Manila; and the NLEx-SLEx Connector Road Expressway from C3 in Caloocan City to Buendia Avenue in Makati.

CMMTC is the joint venture corporation of Indonesia’s P. T. Citra Lamtoro Gung Persada (CLGP) and the Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC).

CMMTC’s owners are CLGP, Citra Marga Nusaphala Persada, Bhaskara Dunlajaya, and Matra Sarana Aristama; Avenue Asia Special Situations Funds III; and local firms Strategic Development Corporation, Metro Strategic Infrastructure Holdings, Inc., as well as the PNCC.

Philippines advances deadline for P40-billion infrastructure projects

Ding Cervantes
Philstar

LUBAO, Pampanga, Philippines – Presidential Management Staff (PMS) chief Hermogenes Esperon said recently that the deadline for the various projects set by President Arroyo in her past State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs) has been moved forward to December 2009 from the original 2010 target.

These are mostly infrastructure projects nationwide amounting to P40 billion.

In an interview during the celebration of Mrs. Arroyo’s 62nd birthday here Sunday, Esperon said “we have moved the deadline for the projects from 2010 to this December.”

“As PMS head, I am now focusing on SONA commitments including major thoroughfares such as the South Luzon Expressway, the roads connecting to Batangas, and also the road that will connect Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union,” Esperon said.

He said that as early as January, the President had instructed that no less than 60 percent of these projects be bidded out to private contractors within the first quarter of this year.

“So by February, most of the projects were already bidded out,” he said, referring to P20 billion worth of irrigation projects and P6 billion worth of farm-to-market roads.

Esperon, however, also admitted that some projects could still not be completed this year, including the long-delayed Caloocan-to-Clark railway and the modern passenger terminal at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the Clark Freeport.

“We have added more funds for the railway,” he said, referring to the $317 million additional cost for the $1 billion railway which has been delayed for five years.

But North Luzon Railways Corp. (Northrail) chairman Edgardo Pamintuan said that Mrs. Arroyo has insisted on the completion of the project before her term expires next year.

Sources from the Clark International Airport Corp., meantime, admitted that the new terminal, whose private contractor has yet to be picked, could be finished only in the latter part of next year, past the Arroyo administration.

MetroPac plans higher stake in Philippine toll road unit

Honey Madrilejos-Reyes
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/companies/8422-metropac-plans-higher-stake-in-toll-road-unit.html

METRO Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) is planning to raise its equity stake in Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (CMMTC), the contract builder of the Metro Manila Skyway System.

From the current equity equivalent to 5 percent, MPIC chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said they are in talks to increase the stake to a “substantial level.” Doing this would naturally mean additional capital injection in CMMTC, he said.

“We plan to increase it substantially. We will just announce if a definitive agreement is signed. CMMTC’s pro-ject complements the South Luzon Expressway [Slex] and what we have in the north,” said Pangilinan.

He did not provide further details in the plan but said they may have to source funding to support the additional investment.

Despite its target to become a majority shareholder, he said PT Citra Marga of Indonesia will remain an important stakeholder of CMMTC, as well as the Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC), which holds the 30-year concession in the operation of the skyway.

MPIC appears encouraged by CMMTC’s ongoing Skyway Stage 2 project. To be put up at a cost of $192 million (roughly P10 billion), the pro-ject will extend the existing Skyway from Bicutan to Alabang in Muntinlupa City, while facilitating the needed rehabilitation works on the existing expressway, including toll collection plazas.

The Metro Manila Skyway Project is being implemented using the build-transfer-operate scheme, with CMMTC financing the design and construction of the toll road. The infrastructure will be transferred to the government after 30 years.

MPIC is also interested to take part on the Coastal Road toll project.

Earlier, the company said it is planning to initiate talks with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and World Bank for possible official development assistance to help fund its toll road projects in north Luzon.

In an interview at the groundbreaking rites for Segment 8.1 of the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) on Thursday, company president and chief executive Ramon S. Fernandez said an investment of P38.1 billion is needed to lay down the ambitious project.

“We are looking for ways to raise the funding needed. But it would be a combination of loans and additional equity,” he said.

Fernandez said the company will be selecting in three weeks the financial advisor to help evaluate the funding sources.

Earlier, MPIC successfully closed the financing for segment 8.1 worth P2.1-billion via a seven-year loan facility agreement with the Philippine National Bank.

The project is a 2.7-kilometer roadway linking Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to the Nlex main gateway in Valenzuela City. It will have 2x2 lanes, a two-way service road and a clover leaf interchange north of the Balintawak toll plaza.

With Leighton Contractors (Philippines) Inc. as civil works contractor, Segment 8.1 is expected to be completed on or before April 30, 2010.

Four more toll road projects under the Phase 2— Segment 9 and Segment 10 of MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City, the Nlex-Slex connector road expressway and the Skyway Stage 2—are in the pipeline, with an aggregate length of 22.48 kilometers. The projects are expected to provide increased access to Nlex and substantially ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

A new–and forced–economic model for the Philippines

OUTSIDE THE BOX
John Mangun
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/8449-a-newand-forcedeconomic-model-for-rp.html

In his BusinessMirror column yesterday, Sen. Manny Villar wrote of “A new economic model for the Philippines.” I call this to your attention because the senator is absolutely right that the country does need a new model of how the economy should operate.

Senator Villar proposes that a group of experts be convened to come up with economic ideas that may be more suitable for the Philippines to follow for the years ahead. He writes, “I must clarify that I am not proposing a new economic model. It is impossible to craft such a model overnight.”

From your perspective, you are probably thinking that talking about an economic model for the Philippines is some sort of intellectual or political exercise that has no bearing on your daily life. You could not be more wrong.

For a nation to move its economy in a particular direction is not an easy task, nor, as Senator Villar says, does it happen overnight. But the effects of crafting and implementing a national economic policy reach across and permeate every society.

The most interesting example of a nation that pushed its economy toward a particular goal and purpose is found in Thailand during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Thailand concluded that the most effective economic plan to raise investment, currency inflow and the highest investment-to-employment business model was through tourism.

The government-owned Thai Airways lowered ticket prices and raised service levels so that the airline attracted hundreds of thousands of new passengers while operating barely at the break-even point. It was the only air carrier that served lobster and champagne as the regular meal service in economy class.

Hotel operators poured millions into the economy as the demand for rooms skyrocketed. Thousands of jobs were instantly created as these new resorts opened. And thousands more of jobs came online with the increased demand for bus drivers, tour guides, restaurant workers, and on and on.

The government mobilized virtually the entire economy toward serving the tourist. Taxi drivers were given courses in basic English. Advertising agencies set up departments only to market goods and services to the foreigners that filled the streets of Bangkok. Retail-shop employees were taught what the foreign tourist expected from sales people. Ordinary Thais, most of whom speak no foreign language, were given multilingual booklets to be able to assist tourists who needed directions or help. From probably an offhand comment from some Cabinet member like, “Maybe we should bring in some more tourists,” the country was turned into a huge visitor-friendly resort.

Formulating a “master plan” for the Philippine economy will be the first and primary task of the next President. Honestly, it has never been done before on the scale that will be necessary now.

Seventy-five years ago, the world moved into a global industrial revolution. Countries that for centuries had produced nothing more than self-sufficient quantities of agricultural products became key manufacturing players.

With the breakdown in the global financial system, the offshoot is the realization that denominating global wealth on a single currency, the US dollar, was foolish and is now impossible. The Great Depression moved the world’s wealth from gold to the dollar in large measure because of US policies to counter the Depression. Those same policies, government spending from artificially created money, will move the world back to currencies backed by something of intrinsic value.

A call by Russia and China to delink from the US dollar is the first step to a new world financial order. Gold was the primary storage of wealth and medium of exchange, was replaced by the US dollar by the end of World War II, and we will see the dollar replaced by a basket of hard commodities.

Nations with actual resources, not merely money printing presses, will dominate the future. When armies and their supporting infrastructure measured a nation’s power, Rome ruled the world. When colonies and sea trade was the ultimate measure of a nation’s wealth, England ruled the world. In the last 70 years, dollars ruled the world, and the nation that had the capacity to print dollars, the United States, was the economic giant. That time is over.

The current US financial policy guarantees that the US dollar will lose tremendous value and will be replaced by hard assets including gold, strategic metals and other commodities with high demand and limited supply.

Imagine a partial shift back to the gold standard where the price of a barrel of oil is quoted in dollars, the price changing every day, and also priced in gold, which rarely changes. Imagine countries receiving for their exports and paying for their imports partially with gold, copper, silver and oil. The new economic giants would be those nations that control vast amounts of the resources. Perhaps that is why Russia is so interested in dropping the dollar and why China is buying natural-resource operations across the planet.

If a nation’s wealth and economic power will inevitably be measured by its hard resources as mentioned above, where does that put the Philippines, and what should our economic model be? The Philippines has the fifth-largest proven reserves of gold and copper in the world. The country is sixth in nickel, with similar statistics for cobalt and other minerals. Eventually, a new economic model will be forced on the Philippines because adapting to the new world order will require it. And the Philippines may be in a position, with wise management, to profit in a way that has eluded it for centuries.



PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.com.

Metro Pacific wants to buy Manila-Cavite Coastal Road project

BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW040709/content.php?id=041

LISTED HOLDING firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. wants to buy into the consortium that controls the Coastal Road project, as part of a plan to improve its water utility’s service in Cavite.

During Thursday’s inauguration of Metro Pacific’s P38-billion project to construct roads linking to the North Luzon Expressway, Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters he was negotiating with the Public Estates Authority Tollway Corp., the state firm that operates the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway.

"We are eyeing the existing company. [But] the talks have been on and off. I can’t understand why they are not talking to us when frankly, they are not doing anything and going anywhere," he said.

The Coastal Road is being extended by a joint venture between the state-owned Philippine Reclamation Authority, the former Public Estates Authority, and UEM-Mara Philippines Corp. of businessman Luis J.L. Virata.

The Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway project consists of the rehabilitation of the existing 6.6-kilometer (km) R-1 Expressway from Seaside Drive in Parañaque to Zapote in Las Piñas, a 7.5-km. link from the South Luzon Expressway to R-1, and the 11.4-km. R-1 Extension from Zapote to Noveleta in Cavite.

The Public Estates Authority Tollway Corp. has been collecting toll fees and remitting 90% of the revenues to UEM-Mara. UEM-Mara got a P3.5-billion loan from a group of banks for the Coastal Road project back in 2006.

The R-1 upgrade was finished years ago and UEM-Mara is working on the initial 7-km. segment of the extension, from Zapote to Kawit in Cavite. The final segment is the 4.3-km. extension from Kawit to Noveleta.

The link between the South Luzon Expressway and R-1, meanwhile, has been hounded by right-of-way problems.

Mr. Pangilinan said acquiring the Coastal Road project would allow Metro Pacific’s water utility, Maynilad Water Services, Inc., to improve its service in Cavite.

Metro Pacific already owns the operations of the North Luzon Expressway, making it a major infrastructure player. A 67% stake in the concession was bought from the Lopez family last year for P12.2 billion.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Ramoncito S. Fernandez, president and chief executive officer of Metro Pacific tollway unit Manila North Tollways Corp., said investing in the Coastal Road project makes sense for the Pangilinan-led firm as this would lead to "synergies."

"If you get that road network you also get the right of way and [lay water pipes there]," he said.

Maynilad is owned by a joint venture between Metro Pacific and the DMCI Holdings, Inc. of the Consunjis, which took over from the Lopezes who gave up on the utility in 2005.

"We welcome reviving the discussions (over the Coastal Road) ... We are also open to continuing any expansion program that has been earmarked for that road," he said.

Philippine central bank makes P500-B available, hoping to jumpstart economy

GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/155876/BSP-makes-P500-B-available-hoping-to-jumpstart-economy

The sole Philippine agency tasked to print, issue, distribute, and retire Philippine currency has circulated nearly half a trillion pesos in February, a move seen to jumpstart the economy.

By making more cash available in the financial system, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) hopes to stimulate the economy by encouraging banks to lend, businesses to borrow, and consumers to buy.

Domestic liquidity – which measures the amount of available credit in the system – expanded by 14.6 percent during the second month this year, latest data from the BSP said.

The increase brought the amount of money in circulation to a total of P3.494 trillion, increasing by P445.45 billion for February alone.

The BSP was prompted to print more legal tender after private lenders have expressed apprehensions that defaults may increase, as indicated by the 15.1 percent drop in private sector credit during February.

Private sector credit reached P2.074 trillion in February, lower than the P2.388 trillion posted during the same month a year ago.

Similarly, private sector loans also contracted by nearly three percent from January’s P2.453 trillion.

“The rate of expansion in net domestic assets (NDA) [the BSP’s assets] slowed down to 6.5 percent in February from the previous month’s 9.4 percent, as the growth of credit extended to the private sector decelerated to 15.1 percent from the 18.3 percent growth registered in January," BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said.

"Credits extended to the public sector rose to 11.0 percent with the increase in lending to local government units and other public entities (23.8 percent), as well as to the national government (7.1 percent)," he added.

Injecting more money into the system was intentional, a move seen to curb the impact of the global crisis on the local economy, Tetangco said earlier.

Increased availability of cash and credit in the system was not only brought about by rising issuances of legal tender but moves undertaken by the BSP such as interest rate cuts – which make loans cheaper – and reducing deposit reserve requirements that frees up cash previously “frozen" or kept in the central bank’s vaults.

However, the BSP said that higher liquidity levels was not expected to be inflationary owing to easing price pressures, allowing inflation to fall to an average of 7.3 percent in February from 7.1 percent the month before.

The central bank’s “easy money" policy has prompted BSP deputy governor Diwa C. Guinigundo to appeal to Filipinos to "rekindle their entrepreneural spirit" so as not to waste the available liquidity.

Entrepreneurial efforts will “reinforce consumer demand," Guinigundo said.

Consumer demand comprises 70 percent of the Philippines’ total economic output.

Philippine public works chief wants ‘super region’ projects completed by April 2010

GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/155305/DPWH-chief-wants-super-region-projects-completed-by-April-2010#

Public works officials handling “super region" projects have been given orders to complete their projects by the end of the first quarter of next year.

Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPHWH) said Department’s thrust for 2009 is to complete the super regions projects before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo finishes her term of office.

Arroyo is barred by law from seeking another term. Her term of office ends on June 30, 2010.

Ebdane said Arroyo’s “super regions" project are of top priority because “they serve as foundations of economic development and it can also help our government’s effort to sustain its economic gains through infrastructure development."

Ebdane directed Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan to supervise the overall implementation of P56.3 billion super region projects.

The super region projects are:

• North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, consisting of the widening/concreting of 95.29 kilometers Halsema Highway covering the Bontoc Banaue Section (27.37% complete) and Mt. Data-Bontoc Section (31.04% complete); concreting of the 108.03-kilometer Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao Road (18.22% complete); and 120-kilometer gravelling and construction including rehabilitation of bridges at Baler-Casiguran Road (5.51% complete) in Aurora province.

• Luzon Urban Beltway, include the widening/improvement and new road opening for the 120.65-kilometer Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Fort Magsaysay-Dingalan Port Road (50.95% complete) in Central Luzon and the concreting of 109.125 kilometers Marikina-Infanta Road (46.59% complete) in Southern Tagalog Region.

The DPWH will facilitate inter-island transportation, commerce, agribusiness and further enhance tourism including job generation in the Central Philippines Super Region through nine road improvement projects located in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Bicol, Western, Eastern and Central Visayas regions.

• Central Philippines, which include the 358.38-km El Nido-Bataraza-Rio Tuba Road (31.64% complete); Cansaga Bay Bridge under the Cebu North Coastal Road Project (phase 1: completed, phase 2: 4.92% complete); Panay Island Package consisting of Caticlan-Malay-Libertad Road (completed), Pandan-Libertad-Antique/Aklan Boundary Road (1.30% complete), Iloilo City-Sta. Barbara and Metro Iloilo Radial Road (8.77% complete); Aroroy-Esperanza Road (39.32% complete); New Bacolod (Silay) Airport Access Road (road right-of-way under negotiation); Bohol Circumferential Road (completed); Maharlika Highway, Samar (33.26% complete); San Isidro-Lope de Vega Road, Northern Samar (5.08% complete); and Laoang-Lapinig-Arteche-San Policarpio (Samar Pacific Coastal Road) (12.18% complete).

• Mindanao Super Region, which includes the 89.80-km Dinagat Island Road Network (22.41% complete); 10.518-km Iligan City Circumferential Road 3 (1.43% complete); 10.766-km Dapitan-Dakak Road (45.58%); 172.72-km Zamboanga West Coast Road (22.25%); 2.36-km Panguil Bay Bridge (contract for the geotechnical investigation works is under process); 104.93-km Junction Awang-Upi-Lebak-Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (civil works for contract packages 1 and 3 has just commenced and accomplishment is at 4.955 and 0.38%, respectively); 151.88-km Kapalong-Talaingod-Valencia Road, Bukidnon (48.85% complete), and the 89.27-km Hawilian-Salug-Sinakungan Road (80.77%). - GMANews.TV

Monday, 6 April 2009

Korean movie promotes Philippine tourism

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qljd_zPX8Hs
Starring: Lee Seon-gyoon, Lee Min-ki, and Lee Soo-kyeong, Eugene kim,Lee Soo-kyeong
Three stories converge on Boracay.



(To search YouTube, type Romantic Island Boracay Korea.)

Philippine Economic Zone Authority approves Taytay P1-billion Cyberpark

C. Mocon
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/top-news/8397-taytay-gets-p1-billion-cyberpark.html

TAYTAY—The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) has approved a P1-billion investment that would be engaged in IT park developments and a tourism economic zone, Mayor Joric Gacula announced.

Gacula said the project would cost the Manila East Homes Inc. some P1 billion for the construction, development and operation of the very first cyberpark in this locality.

The Filipino-owned company has proposed to develop a 5,000-plus- square-meter property in barangay San Juan, Taytay, Rizal, into an IT park to be known as Manila East City Cyberpark.

“With pride, we are happy to announce that we would soon be hosting the very first cyberpark facility not just in Taytay but would also be the first and only in Rizal,” Gacula noted.

Peza also recently approved two other IT park projects. Ortigas and Co. is also investing P550 million for the conversion of an existing three-story building located in Frontera Verde Drive, Ortigas Avenue, in Pasig City into an IT Center. The company, which is an existing Peza-registered IT park developer, is investing P200 million for this particular project, bringing its investments to a total of P550 million to date.

The third project approved by Peza is GRCanon Development for its P374-million project.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Philippine Ombudsman a success story

Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2009/april/05/yehey/top_stories/20090405top4.html

IN late 2007, a private lending company filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against 50 government employees, including school teachers, the police and fire department officers.

The company sought to collect outstanding amounts on these employees’ delinquent personal loans.

The Office of the Ombudsman decided to recommend the case for mediation, an option that was not available prior to June 2007.

This new alternative dispute resolution program was developed thanks to the Millennium Challenge Corp.’s (MCC) Philippines Threshold Program, which has been working since 2006 to help improve revenue administration and anti-corruption efforts in the country.

This decision saved the Office of the Ombudsman considerable time and resources.

Through mediation, both parties had an opportunity to present their points of view. As a result of mediation, the lending company agreed to restructure the employees’ payment schedules. This outcome benefited all parties involved.

The employees and the company were able to reach an agreement, and the Ombudsman had 50 fewer complaints, thereby reducing the number of pending cases and shifting more resources from administrative cases toward the fight against corruption.

The mediation program was developed in conjunction with the Asia Foundation and in close collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman to determine appropriate dispute resolution approaches and training needs. Staff was carefully selected for mediation training that included a five-day course and 40 hours of mediation practice.

The process finalized with a review of policies and procedures as well as the drafting of an Ombudsman Rules of Procedure for Mediation.

At its inception, the MCC program’s goal was to increase the number of cases successfully mediated in the Ombudsman’s Public Assistance Office from zero to 300 a year. Current results exceed those expectations.

The Office of the Ombudsman expects to settle through mediation at least half of the 10,000 cases it receives each year. This system will allow the reduction of its backlog of unresolved cases and face the rapid annual increase in the number of cases filed.

By strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman, the MCC is helping the Philippines reduce corruption and better position itself to start investing in poverty reduction programs.

Philippines eligible since March 2008 for US aid as a ‘Compact’ level MCA beneficiary

Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2009/april/05/yehey/top_stories/20090405top2.html

REFLECTING its ongoing efforts to root out corruption, the Philippines is now eligible for bigger grants from a US government corporation that promotes civil liberties, public health expenditure, girls’ primary education, business start ups and land rights.

“The Philippines was re-selected as a compact-eligible country during the meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corp. [MCC] Board in December, 2008,” says Dante Canlas, executive director of the Millennium Challenge Account Philippine Compact Program Office. “Compact signing is, however, conditional on the Philippines making progress on a Policy Improvement Process [PIP], particularly in fighting corruption.”

Since it became eligible for so-called “Compact” projects last year, the Philippines embarked on consultative meetings that resulted in several project proposals submitted for possible grants from the MCC.

The MCC is a US government corporation designed to work with developing countries in the belief that aid is most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.

“The proposals are now undergoing peer review in Washington,” Canlas says.

Since early 2007, the MCC has funded the Philippines’ Threshold Program aimed at enhancing anti-corruption efforts by strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman, improving revenue administration and increasing enforcement capacity within the Department of Finance.

The Philippines became eligible for a $21-million MCC Threshold Program in November 2006. The program is used to assist a country to become eligible for a full “Compact” program that substantially increases grants depending on project costs.

The Philippines became available for so-called Compact projects in March 2008 as the MCC observed the country’s consistent performance on eligibility criteria and its effective implementation of the MCC-funded Threshold Program focused on helping curb corruption through improved tax and customs administration and strengthening of their Ombudsman’s office.

Eligibility for “Compact” pro jects does not guarantee funding. The Philippines, like all countries eligible for a compact, must maintain its performance on the selection criteria and embark on a consultative process to develop proposals that addresses the country’s barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth.

The consultation process included the public, nongovernmental organizations and the government and private sector.

Measured by 17 different policy indicators, a country becomes eligible for an MCC “Compact” program when it has consistently upheld civil liberties, political rights, voice and accountability, government effectiveness, rule of law, control of corruption, health immunization rates, public health expenditure, girls’ primary education completion rate, public expenditure on primary education, business start up, inflation, trade policy, regulatory quality, fiscal policy, natural resource management and land rights and access.

The indicators are based on data from local, US and international sources such as the Heritage Foundation, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Since the Philippines became eligible for a “Compact” project last year, it has submitted several “Compact” project proposals that are now undergoing peer review in Washington, D.C.

The proposed “Compact” pro jects include Secondary National Roads Development ($191 million); Empowerment and Development Project for Poor Communities ($140 million); Sustainable Upland Watershed Management and Productivity Enhancement ($43 million); and Integrated Revenue Information System for Sustained Fiscal Governance ($148 million).

One proposal ($ 191 million) involves the Department of Public Works and Highways aims to improve six priority secondary roads totaling 309.5 kilometers. Another ($140 million) involves the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to scale-up a World Bank project that assists local governments to increase access to basic education, health and nutrition, shelter, potable water, sanitation, electricity and other needs.

The DSWD also proposed a poverty reduction project that provides cash grants to extremely poor households to allow 172,488 households to meet certain human development goals such as regular school attendance and availing of recommended child and maternal health care services.

The Department of Agriculture wants to improve 170 small water-impounding projects (mostly, dams) in upland areas in 41 provinces. Impounded rainwater will irrigate 13,000 hectares while 500 hectares will be developed into a water reservoir for inland fishery and 3,400 hectares of watershed for agroforestry.

Smugglers, etc.

In 2007, the Department of Budget and Management allotted P153.11 million to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Department of Finance (DOF) anti-corruption programs, while another P105.49 went to the Bureau of Customs as part of the Philippine government’s share to the Washington grant under the MCA Threshold Program Assistance (TPA).

A typical TPA ended in March at the Bureau of Customs Run After the Smugglers (RATS) program. Since 2005, RATS initiated detection, investigation and prosecution of smugglers and trade law violators. The aim is to streamline trade enforcement and increase revenue collection.

The assistance included training of lawyers, investigators and prosecutors of the Department of Justice Task Force on Anti-Smuggling. Personnel were trained in the management of air- and seaport surveillance equipment acquired from the program. An evidence storage facility was set up.

At a cost of $630,000 (P28.3 million), the project included hardware, software, IT-related training, and third-party consulting services and a data/statistical analysis system. The information data warehouse was established to monitor revenues, profile imports and importers, analyze trends and target potential smugglers.

With 12 full time attorneys, and 100 more to be deployed nationwide, RATS profile, evaluate and litigate trade law violators and fraudulent importers and brokers.

The turnover was held on March 5 to mark the culmination of technical assistance to the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) in the Department of Finance during which 132 corruption cases were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, exceeding targets by 12 percent.

RIPS investigates allegations of corruption in the Department of Finance and unjustified accumulation of wealth disproportionate to earning capacity of the same officials and employees.

The TPA was also instrumental in the formulation of the Customs and Tariff Modernization Act of 2008 that harmonizes and updates customs laws, rules and regulations.

On the darker side, Information Technology gives tax evaders new avenues and tools to engage in lucrative transactions and then hide their money from tax authorities. Or launder crime money in ways that make it legitimate.

Also last March, a seminar on e-commerce was held for revenue and justice officials. An American justice attaché was among those who discussed electronic evidence and money laundering, rules of court governing use and admissibility of electronic evidence and the techniques used in preparing digital documents.

Early this year, 79 officers from the Office of the Ombudsman attended training on corruption prevention patterned after the Hong Kong University Postgraduate Certificate Course in Corruption Studies.

The TPA also supports the Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) Program created by the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 2005.

The National Tax Research Center estimates that from 2001 to 2006, over P179 billion in income taxes were lost from tax evasion by fixed-income earners, professionals and self-employed individuals.

It promotes voluntary tax compliance and generates deterrence after violators are caught and punished. In the first of a series of measures, the BIR designated specific investigators among a team of examiners to handle RATE cases.

Among the RATE programs assisted is to inform taxpayers that the BIR has the capacity and the will to make tax evasion a high-risk, low-reward activity.

This includes computerizing the gathering, storage and retrieval of data on taxpayers, from the district level up.

The RATE program computerized 71 tax districts; only 44 districts, most of them in Metro Manila and Cebu, were previously computerized. The program provided the computers, servers, network cabling and data storage facilities.

The data can be mined, analyzed and retrieved at a much faster rate and in a more efficient manner than manual operations. The comprehensive database captures all tax transactions and enables the bureau to countercheck within, between, and among data sets for indications of tax evasion.

Source: http://www.mca-ptp.ph/